My son, Joel, has been an enthusiastic gardener for a few years now. He has a love for echinops and eryngium, shasta daisies, Austin roses and hydrangeas.
When he was a kid, he wowed us all by planting a garden composed entirely of plants with either black foliage or blue flowers. It was terrific.
Now, he is a father with two young daughters and he recently he ask me if I would like to help plant a sunflower garden this summer.
He got the idea when we all visited Krause Berry Farm last year and there was a patch of densely planted sunflowers in the mixed flower garden. Joel loved it, but so did his daughter, Julie.
This week, I picked up a bunch of sunflower seeds from Superstore. They had a good selection and they were a great price.
I got Mammoth, which soars to 3.7 m, and Orange Prince, which only grows to 61 cm. I also bought some Teddy Bear, a fluffy orange-yellow, that grows to1.8 m and Pike’s Peak is a monster, soaring to 4.6 m.
For something between the super-tall ones and the shorter varieties, I picked some Evening Sun Mix, which produce a mix of deep red, gold and burgundy flowers.
We figure we can grow them in a spot that gets full sun and where the stalks can reach up to the deck where the flower heads will more visible. The shorter varieties will fill in space below and be visible more when we are down in the garden.
West Coast Seeds also carries some very good sunflower selections. We will probably pick up a few from there, too, such as Suntastic, which grow only 30 cm (12 inches) tall, making them perfect for containers. These are also fairly quick to bloom, taking only 65 days or sooner to bloom.
Russian Mammoth is pretty much the same as the Mammoth I got. It also grows to 13 feet.
Joel loves the idea of growing some of the bi-colour ones, such as Solar Power, one of the prettiest with petals of mahogany and bright yellow. It grows only about 1.7 m (five feet, six inches).
Autumn Beauty would be another good pick as it produces as many as 20 blooms per plant with colours ranging from yellow to bronze.
Anyway, there is a fair bit to do before seed-planting. We have to prepare the bed and get the soil nice and fertilized and free draining.
The whole point is to grow some wonderful sunflowers to create lasting memories for Joel’s two daughters, Julie and Emma. Well, and Joel himself – he also loves big, beautiful flowers.
Neither of us have ever done this before. I am thinking we will have enough seeds for me to put in a little patch of sunflowers, too.
How do you grow them?
Well, they are heavy feeders and therefore require rich, fertile soil. And they like sun, so a full sun exposure where plants get at least 6 to 8 hours of sun is essential.
Seeds can be directly planted into the ground in April when the danger of frost has past and the soil is warmer and easy to work.
Seeds should be planted 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep; seeds for taller varieties can go a little deeper up to 1 inch. Taller varieties should be planted at least 20 cm apart in rows 60 to 75 cm apart inches apart. Shorter varieties can be more closely planted.When the plants start to grow, the bigger ones can be spaced 30-46 cm apart.
Some experts recommend sowing more seeds over a month to create a continual sequence of blooms.